Race report from new Cat 4 Amanda Bye. Going into her first season competing in cycling, she’s managed to race crits, TT’s and cyclocross–all within a few months of each other! Read on to see how addictive the sport can be….
“Are you nervous?” A resounding yes echoes in my head but I am unable to speak, so I politely smile and nod. But why? The newness of it all, the possibility of getting hurt or worse yet causing someone else to get hurt, not finishing, spectators noticing how many times I have been lapped. Then once my wheels begin to roll, I realize nothing else matters but doing the best that I can and the nervousness goes away.
People cycle for all kinds of reasons. Fitness, competition, the freedom of going fast, to build endurance, for great looking legs, pushing yourself to your limits, the camaraderie, learning a new skill, beer gardens, as an excuse to wear spandex and for men to shave their legs and the list goes on.
July was my first cycling race. Being new to racing, I did not have awareness that a late-season road race was not the best introduction to cycling. I lined up at the start; heart pounding and then I heard someone say “You have just as much right as anyone else to be here. Feel free to move forward.” I looked around and noticed that the race official was speaking to me. It gave me reassurance and calmed my heart. The countdown to the start then began. I was pleasantly surprised when I immediately stepped into my pedals and was able to get in the middle of the group. It took approximately one and a half laps into the race until I dropped off the back of the pack. I then spent the remainder of the race trying to catch the pelaton and hearing people from the sidelines cheer me on. I heard my good friend and fellow racer, Ryan, cheer “You can still catch them” as I was lapped a second time. I then heard a bell, which signified a prime lap, my only thought was to keep pedaling and hope to not get disqualified for being too far behind, not about winning a prize. However, I did win that prime lap. The other ladies who were racing that day were encouraging as were the race officials, I think it was their kind words that allowed me to return and the fact that I was no longer afraid of the unknown. I completed two subsequent road races that season and noticed improvements with each one.
My first Time Trial (TT) was daunting. I arrived early in order to leave time to warm up, get my number pinned on and make sure that I was not late to my dedicated start time. I kept remembering how Rachel, a seasoned cyclist and teammate, had informed me, from her past experience, to not be late. Time Trials have a held start, then a countdown and you are off. All I could hear is my own breathing and the tires on the road. These races were addicting for me as each week I would obsessively go over the course in my head and what I could do to improve my time. It also helped that Rachel took much of her time to provide pointers on how to race a TT and what helps a racer go fast. Additionally, TTs are less intimidating than other road races for me because I am not in a pack and there is no lapping.
Next for me was cyclocross. There were 34 women in the “First Timer” field that afternoon at Queens of Cross. I tried to stop my psyche from telling me how likely it was that I would fall that day and to focus on riding. This course had a large hill to run up, 2 obstacles to jump over and a log to traverse. My saving grace that day was that with the support of more experienced rider, I had practiced dismounts and remounts so much in the prior weeks that they were fluid. Training for this type of race includes off-road riding, dismounting and remounting in motion and running while carrying the bike. During the final lap, I was slowly coming around an arched turn when I fell. This was quite possibly the slowest fall that anyone had witnessed that day. I can clearly remember thinking that I was falling multiple times before actually hitting the ground. My rear derailleur then slipped and someone had to help me get my chain back on in order to finish the race. There are many things that can go wrong in cyclocross- mechanical failures, tripping, sliding out, someone falling in front of me, not being able to get out of or back into pedals, dropping my bike, pinch flat, cold weather- but that is what makes cross so much fun. People are always encouraging, regardless if you are in first or last place. The cheering and cowbells makes it hard to not smile while enduring this sport.
Now when I race, I am not nearly as nervous and I feel more confident at most things that I do. I appreciate all the support and guidance from TriBella both the shop and the cycling team. This community made racing an attainable goal and did not make me feel uncomfortable about asking newbie questions. The support in cycling from teammates, friends and fans is unbelievable.
So only one question remains: “What are you waiting for?”
This Sunday, 11/6 is Primalpalooza Cross Race at 10:55 AM there is a “Beginner” category. This is a low-key way to begin racing. Hope to see you there.